Minister of Defense of unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh Republic

January 1995 – August 1999

Babayan was born on 5 March 1965 in Stepanakert (Khankendi), Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), Azerbaijani SSR.

In 1982, he graduated from the secondary school #7 in Stepanakert. From 1983 to 1985, served in the Soviet military contingent in East Germany.

Known for

Babayan is Armenian military commander and politician. One of the most active commanders during the Nagorno-Karabakh War who made serious input into the process of occupation of internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan Republic.

Following the war, he served as so called Defense Minister of unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from 1994 to 2000.

During this period, Babayan "became not only the military leader but the most powerful man in Karabakh overall, controlling its government and economy."

Lieutenant General Samvel Babayan rose to prominence amongst Armenians during the military phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in 1991-1994. Babayan carried out coordination of Armenian operations in Karabakh, participated in the development of the plan to capture Shusha and was the commander of the front of Lachin.

As unified military command began to be established in Nagorno Karabakh in 1992-1993, Babayan became the Commander of the so called Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army in 1993, after his predecessor Serzh Sargsyan left to become Armenia's Defense Minister.

Under his command, the separatists military with support of Armenian and Russian forces succeeded in winning a number of strategic battles against the Azerbaijani military and regained control over most of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as partially controlling 7 surrounding districts of Azerbaijan Republic.

By December 1999, Babayan was forced to relinquish his position as the so called Self-Defense Forces Commander in Nagorno Karabakh separatist regime.

On 22 March 2000, Babayan allegedly launched an assassination attempt on the president of unrecognized NKR Arkadi Ghukasyan, leaving him seriously wounded but alive.

At the 26 February session on the case the sentences for the 16 defendants were read out loud. Babayan was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

During the investigation and in jail, Babayan's health greatly deteriorated. He was said to suffer from hepatitis and other ailments which could not be treated in prison. On 18 September 2004, Samvel Babayan was released from maximum-security prison in Shusha due to health concerns, with the terms of release including a probationary period and continued disenfranchisement.

In November 2005, Samvel Babayan founded the Dashink political party with his supporters. The party did not achieve any major success.

Babayan returned to Armenia in May 2016 after a de facto exile in Moscow, shortly after major clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact.


According to many reports, while in office Babayan developed a tidy sideline in arms shipments, using his position to ferry weapons, via Georgia, on to Iran and beyond.

As reported in The Armenian Weekly, the country’s National Security Service said that it had “credible information” linking him to arms shipments, including a shoulder-fired surface-to-air rocket system.

In March 2004, Babayan was imprisoned for launching an assassination attempt against Arkady Ghukasian, then head of Nagorno-Karabakh, and served four years behind bars. Yet this failed to tame him.

On November 28th, 2017, an Armenian court sentenced Babayan to six years in prison for weapons smuggling and money laundering.

The once- powerful general had denied claims that he promised to pay $50,000 on delivery of a portable surface-to-air missile to Armenia.

He also has been linked to international arms dealer Moosa Bin Shamsher.

It was not just rumours that suggested links to Bin Shamsher. The pair have seen together on the Bangladeshi’s visits to the occupied territory of Karabakh, including meetings at his hotel.